FNE at Berlinnale 2011: Competition The Prize


    BERLIN: Polish cinematographer Wojciech Staron's lensing of competition entry The Prize (El Premio) with his extreme close-ups and somber images dominates this film and gives it a tension and a feeling of menace. Directed by Argentine born and Mexican based director Paula Markovitch the film is partly autobiographical.

    Set in the locations of the director's childhood in Argentina under the 1970's fascist dictatorship the film is about a seven year old girl who is in hiding with her mother from a nameless menace. Her father is missing presumed to have been imprisoned by the authorities. Living by the seashore in a small hut, the young girl, Cecilia, played by Paula Galineli, is sent to school with the admonition that she must not reveal her family's true identity. She is forced to lie and cover-up without fully understanding the reasons but knowing that the safety of her family depends upon it. But Celia's innocently honest essay about the Argentine army brings her into the limelight at school and causes her mother to panic trying to get the essay back and to rewrite it.

    Speaking at the press conference Markovitch said that the film was a story where each image was important. "Cinema is not the art of telling a story through pictures, through images. Cinema is the art of telling a story with every few images, much fewer than with literature or other art forms. So each image has to have a symbolic value."

    The film uses images strongly for example the image of a book buried in the sand or submerged in the water. Markovitch said: "In dictatorships the works of literature disappear. A dictatorship is not just about the loss of life, it means also the loss of art."

    The mood of the film is set by Staron's long opening sequence as a little girl in a winter coat on an isolated beach tries to skate in the sand. Staron's camera makes each image significant and his somber images of the child by the sea and the sand conjure up a world where people are at the mercy of forces greater than themselves.

    The film is coproduction between Mexico's Kung Works, France's Mille et Une Germany's Niko Film and Polish coproducer is Małgorzata Staroń and her company Staron Film. Her husband Wojciech Staron was the cinematographer. The Polish Film Institute (http://www.pisf.pl/) supported the 3.5M Euro budget film with a grant of 300 000 PLN which was matched 300 000 PLN from Staron.

    During the press conference in Berlin producer Izrael Moreno praised the vision of PISF saying: "I think it's important that this is the first time there has ever been a Mexican Polish coproduction. The dedication of Wojciech Staron to the project was a large part what made it a success."

    Director and script: Paula Markovitch

    Production: (Mexico) Kung Works, (France) Mille et Une (Germany) Niko Film and (Poland) Staron Film.
    DOP: Wojciech Staron
    Cast: Paula Galinelli Hertzog, Sharon Herrera, Laura Agorreca, Viviana Suraniti, Uriel Iasillo

    Supported by the Polish Film Institute